QPR were effectively one minute away from the Championship yesterday before Djibril Cisse’s late strike kept their hopes of avoiding relegation alive.
They need one more point to guarantee safety, but since their final game is away to Manchester City, and they have the Premier League’s worst record on the road, they are likely to find themselves relying on Bolton failing to win their last match, which is, coincidentally, away to Stoke.
In Rangers’ favour will be the fact that Stoke are obviously not yet in the mood to hit the beaches. Yesterday they made life difficult for the home side, who struggled to create openings until late on.
When Thomas Sorensen, the Stoke goalkeeper, saved a close-range header from Cisse, a 51st-minute substitute, it seemed their chance had gone. But a minute from time, Anton Ferdinand stooped to head on a corner from Adel Taarabt and Cisse found himself unmarked to poke the ball in and secure a fifth successive home win.
The France striker has been arguably more of a liability than an asset since arriving from Lazio in January. Two red cards have severely restricted his availability, but yesterday he delivered on a promise to repay the club for his previous indiscretions.
“Sometimes I think if I had played more we wouldn’t be in this situation,” Cisse said. “The past is the past and I’m trying to repay the confidence and love the people gave me.”
QPR manager Mark Hughes will now face City, who sacked him in December 2009, with the chance to take revenge, perhaps denying them the title — a prospect he described as “interesting for both clubs”. But he admitted that Rangers’ chances of survival have been made easier by Bolton’s surrender of a two-goal lead at home to West Bromwich Albion. “The stars have aligned and things have fallen our side of the line and we’re thankful for that but key for us was taking the three points,” Hughes said.
Tony Pulis, the Stoke manager, said: “I don’t think it was a game we deserved to lose. We created some great opportunities.” Hughes will hope they take them next weekend and ensure their own survival.
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved